Quick! Which is better: print or digital publishing?
Think about it. We’ll wait.
Okay—time’s up. The answer is…
Now, before you starting shouting your case for one kind of publishing over the other or start hurling rotten fruit at us through your computer screen (don’t do it, trust us on this one), consider this.
Each form of publishing has its own strengths and weaknesses. Examples are in order:
- Print journals may feel like they have a long shelf life, but that’s only on the shelf in your bedroom. Online literary journal archives are accessible to the public via the Web, often indefinitely, which means your old short story stays viable.
- Seeing your book in print truly feels great—a one-of-a-kind experience. Seeing your online book being purchased by a significant number of additional readers because it is an e-book instead of a print book feels great too.
- High-quality online publishers are up-and-coming—and coming up with exciting new writers who break the mold. But print has an established reputation (in some circles) as being of higher quality.
We could go on. There are pros and cons. You know that already. By having a MIX of online and print publications, you get the best of both worlds.
Here’s what could happen if you focus exclusively on print publications:
1. Literary agents and editors can’t access your work on the Web. When they Google your name (i.e., “Fanny Washer, Rose Picker, Harry Pitts”), the results aren’t exactly literary. That’s upsetting for them and you.
2. Your author website bio doesn’t link to any published examples of your published work—which stinks for readers who are going to your site because they want to get to know you and read your published work.
3. You begin to look obsolete, publishing only in old-school publications. Instead of submitting to hip, cutting-edge literary journals that are shaking things up and making waves in words, your writing languishes in all its curmudgeonly dignity on your bookshelf, inflating your ego but not your readership.
And here’s what might happen if you focus exclusively on online publications or digital publications:
1. Libraries can’t stock your work, for the most part.
2. You don’t get the thrill of seeing your work in print.
3. You don’t get that eau-de-print cachet that the outside world (that is, the world outside of publishing) finds so mysterious and thrilling.
4. You can’t give your book to someone as a birthday present, unless they have an e-reader. And your grandparents can’t put your newest poem on their mantel unless they print it out on their dot matrix first.
So, Mix It Up!
Mixing up online and print is a smart business model: Major and minor book publishers are releasing new titles as BOTH digital and print works. Many online literary journals have anthologized print editions, and many print journals have online editions. And if mixing mediums is good enough for them…well, you know where this is going.
As people who have made a life of being writer advocates, we feel that writers should have a GOOD MIX of online and print publications (especially if the writers in question are publishing in the lit mag circuit).
Literary agents and editors look at both your print success and your online success. So have something ready to show them. Go on—get the advantages of both worlds working on your side!
QUESTION: Okay—you can start throwing that fruit now (we’ve got our umbrellas ready). Are we on the money or way off base? Is one kind of publishing better than the other?
Photo by Emilie Ogez.